Prevent Halloween nightmares from haunting your business....

  • Business Advice
Kate Palmer FCIPD - Director of HR Advice and Consultancy at global employment law consultancy, Peninsula.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director

(Last updated )

Halloween’s just round the corner. And whilst it might be the season to dress up and carve pumpkins, be warned.

Halloween can create HR and health & safety nightmares if you’re not careful. So, take these steps, or there could be more scares than you bargained for…

1. Lay out rules for fancy dress

You don’t have to relax your dress code policy for Halloween if you don’t want to – but it can be a great way to boost staff morale.

If your workers are client-facing, consider the message you want to put across. It might be a positive tool if you want to show customers that your company is a great place to work, and you don’t take yourselves too seriously.

But you should still set boundaries, like banning costumes that:

  • relate to politics or religion (which may cause offence or spark discrimination claims)
  • are gory and make use of fake blood, scars, or blisters (not ideal for squeamish staff)
  • restrict movement (which may hinder productivity or create a health & safety hazard)
  • are inappropriate (if there’s any doubt, it’s probably a no)

You might also want to ban costumes that mock you or your other workers. This can help prevent staff from undermining you or accusing co-workers of bullying.

2. Remind staff to think before they post

Halloween can unleash social media demons. And these demons can wreak havoc if your workers post offensive content online, leaving your company’s reputation at stake.

That’s why you need to remind staff that what they share online can have major consequences for your business.

For example, say they post a picture of themselves wearing an offensive Halloween costume. In their bio, they’ve mentioned they work for your company. This could result in loss of business or tarnish your reputation if your employee faces a discrimination claim.  

To avoid this risk, consider setting up a social media policy. Let your staff know they could face disciplinary action if they use social media inappropriately.

3. Be mindful of health & safety

Halloween brings potential health & safety issues, so be mindful of this.

Dimming the lights might seem like a good idea to create a spooky atmosphere, but it could end in disaster if staff trip over and injure themselves.

And if you want to set up activities, weigh up the risks. Pumpkin carving could cause injuries and lead to potential compensation claims. Open flames could be a fire hazard.

There’s also the issue of pranks. Your staff might want to fully immerse themselves in the Halloween spirit and set up pranks for their colleagues.

This might sound like a bit of a fun, but it could go very wrong. What if your worker gets hurt, upset or angry after being the target of a prank? To avoid this, remind your staff that if they want to plan any activities, they need to run them past you first.

And make sure you assess any possible safety risks if you’re planning any Halloween events or games.

4. Make sure your decorations are appropriate

Whilst it might seem like harmless fun to put around a few jump-scare decorations, giving your workers a sudden fright is never a good idea. It could be dangerous, especially if they have phobias or suffer with anxiety.

Also, be mindful of how appropriate the decorations are for your workplace. Someone might see images of ghosts, devils, and skeletons in a healthcare setting as being insensitive or offensive. This is especially true for those with strong religious beliefs.

You should also make sure none of your decorations violate your fire safety procedures, like blocking fire doors or emergency exits.

5. Be considerate of religious and philosophical beliefs

There are certain laws in place to protect staff against discrimination in the workplace. Under the Equality Act, it is discrimination to treat someone unfairly because of personal characteristics. This includes age, sex, and race.

Religious beliefs are also protected under this law. So, you need to be careful if your workers follow religions or ideologies like Paganism or Satanism.

Be open-minded and respectful of your workers’ beliefs (as long as they don’t hurt or offend anyone). And if staff request time off to celebrate a belief around Halloween, try to accommodate this.

No spooks and no stress with watertight documentation

When there are boundaries in place, celebrating Halloween at work can be a positive team building tool. But you need to establish boundaries by taking steps to protect your workers and your reputation.

That’s why watertight policies are vital. Drawing a line won’t work unless it’s in writing.

Policies remind your workers to be mindful and sensitive of individual beliefs and choices. Some employees might not celebrate Halloween at all for religious reasons. So, you need to make sure your policies outline rules and guidelines for your workforce.

It’ll be your weapon in the face of monstrous grievances and discrimination claims…

To make sure your workplace is ready this Halloween, call us on 0800 029 4384

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